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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Wounded but undeterred, Afghan blast survivors return to polling stations 

'I feel responsible for my country's future'

An Afghan woman arrives at a polling station to cast her vote during parliamentary elections in Kabul, Afghanistan. Reuters 
An Afghan woman arrives at a polling station to cast her vote during parliamentary elections in Kabul, Afghanistan. Reuters 

Shkula Zadran was at her local polling station in Kabul when a loud blast sent voters rushing for cover amidst panicked screams.

This was the latest in a string of attacks on Afghan civilians casting their votes on Saturday.

Despite threats by the Taliban and ISIS, an encouraging number of voters made it to the polling stations. Some made several attempts to reach their polling centers, amidst gunfire and explosions, at great personal risk.

“The situation got really bad and people panicked. Everyone was screaming and running, and I decided to go home then, without having voted,” twenty-five-year old Ms Zadran told The National.

But she refused to be deterred by the violence she experienced earlier that day.

Armed with courage the young political activist waited until evening and set out for the second time to cast her vote in the country's parliamentary elections.

Fearing for her life, Ms Zadran's family discouraged her from going.

“I feel responsible for my country's future,” she said. “So many people voted in insecure provinces, so why not me?” she asked, adding that the sacrifice of those who died in the service of Afghanistan inspired her to go back and vote.

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Ms Zadran’s sentiment was echoed across the country and among the victims of Saturday's violence.

Amir Mohammed, a 20-year-old ice-cream shop owner in the eastern province of Nangarhar was injured in an attack on Saturday morning in Kama district.

“I was at the gate of the centre waiting to enter when the explosion happened. The bomb was placed just outside,” Mr Mohammed recalled. He suffered injuries on his leg and torso and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Hours later, bandaged and recovering, he returned to the polling station with his family.

“We are definitely voting for the sake of prosperity of my country,” he told The National, adding he felt anger towards the Taliban.

Fareed Ahmad Ranjbar in the northern Baghlan province also took to the stations in an act of defiance against the Taliban, who remain opposed to the vote, despite their ongoing negotiations with the US administration. “I am standing against them [Taliban] using my rights to respond to [their boycott],” he said.

Voters line up in Herat and Ghor province where the Taliban are fighting with the Afghan security forces on Baghlan-Mazar highway since early morning. Shafi Amini / The National
Voters line up in Herat and Ghor province where the Taliban are fighting with the Afghan security forces on Baghlan-Mazar highway since early morning. Shafi Amini / The National

Mr Ranjbar lost his nephew in clashes on Saturday morning between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.

He attended the funeral before returning to the polling station to cast his vote. In a Facebook post, that has since gone viral, he wrote, “I made a promise to the country, and I am committed to the future of this country.”

He told The National that despite the personal tragedy he experienced today, he is optimistic. “My people want to move forward and I am using my vote to bring the younger, educated generation to power in Afghanistan,” he said.